George V. Reilly

Review: Counterstroke

Title: Coun­ter­stroke
Author: Andrew Garve
Rating: ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright: 1978
Pages: 178
Keywords: Suspense
Reading period: 13 February, 2016

The wife of a rich politician has been kidnapped by terrorists who want to exchange her in nine days' time for one of their number who's in prison. Actor Bob Farran thinks he can im­per­son­ate Tom Lacey well enough that Sally Morland will be freed and he can earn the £250,000 reward.

We spend three quarters of the book preparing for the im­per­son­ation, which gives Farran time to do it well. While the nine-day delay enabled the im­per­son­ation, it makes little sense for the terrorists to have asked for such a delay. The exchange continue.

Review: The Crook Factory

Title: The Crook Factory
Author: Dan Simmons
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Harper Torch
Copyright: 1999
Pages: 562
Keywords: thriller, historical
Reading period: 28 May–6 June, 2015

In 1942, Ernest Hemingway ran a counter-espionage ring and submarine-seeking operation from Cuba. Staffed by amateurs, it was approved by the American ambassador. The narrator, Joe Lucas, is sent by J. Edgar Hoover to infiltrate Hem­ing­way's op. There seems to be a lot of espionage going on in Cuba and it looks like Hemingway is being set up for something.

Based loosely on true events, this is en­ter­tain­ing, if a tad longwinded and confusing.

Review: The Thirty-Nine Steps

Title: The Thirty-Nine Steps
Author: John Buchan
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Copyright: 1915
Pages: 225
Keywords: thriller, "shocker"
Reading period: 1 January, 2015

John Buchan's classic novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps, takes place in the summer of 1914, weeks before the Great War breaks out. Richard Hannay, who made his fortune in South Africa, is bored of London. When his neighbor is murdered after disclosing a spy plot to him, Hannay is forced to go on the run to avoid being arrested by the police or killed by the spies. He spends much of the book hiding out in rural Scotland, before returning to London.

This proto-thriller—or “shocker” as Buchan called it—is still an en­ter­tain­ing story.

Review: Watchman

Title: Watchman
Author: Ian Rankin
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Copyright: 1988
Pages: 272
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 19–28 September, 2010

Review: The Pawn

Title: The Pawn
Author: Steven James
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Onyx
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 448
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 13–19 September, 2010

Patrick Bowers PhD is an en­vi­ron­men­tal crim­i­nol­o­gist for the FBI. A serial killer who calls himself the Il­lu­sion­ist is killing women in North Carolina and leading the FBI a merry dance. There's a major subplot involving another killer and Jonestown. And Bowers' personal life is com­pli­cat­ed by a sullen teenage step­daugh­ter.

Despite the ludicrous complexity of the plot, it's an en­ter­tain­ing and relatively thoughtful thriller.

Review: Hostile Intent

Title: Hostile Intent
Author: Michael Walsh
Rating: ★ ★
Publisher: Pinnacle
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 360
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 9–10 September, 2010

Superspy Devlin, head of the U.S. gov­ern­men­t's most secret black ops team, is on the run, apparently having being framed by someone with inside knowledge.

Second-rate ripoff of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. Ludicrous plot, cliched characters, risible tech­nob­a­b­ble. I gave it longer than I should before abandoning it.


Review: The Stockholm Syndicate

Title: The Stockholm Syndicate
Author: Colin Forbes
Rating: ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Pan
Copyright: 1981
Pages: 321
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 13 September, 2009

The SPECTRE-like Stockholm Syndicate is ruthlessly spreading terror among the European gov­ern­ments. The shadowy Telescope or­ga­ni­za­tion, led by former cop Jules Beaurain, is fighting it.

The plot is pre­pos­ter­ous but engaging in a classic Cold War thriller way.

Review: Old Boys

Title: Old Boys
Author: Charles McCarry
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Orion Books
Copyright: 2004
Pages: 484
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 11–15 June, 2009

Paul Christo­pher, sep­tu­a­ge­nar­i­an and former superspy, was last seen in a remote Chinese province. His ashes are delivered to his cousin Horace, also a retired spy, who is not convinced that the ashes belong to Paul. Then he learns that Paul is on the trail of Ibn Awad, a mad sultan with nukes who covets a first-century manuscript (a Roman spy­mas­ter's report on Jesus) that is thought to be in the possession of Paul's 94-year-old mother, who hasn't seen since 1940, when she was abducted by the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich. So continue.

Review: Wyatt's Hurricane

Title: Wyatt's Hurricane
Author: Desmond Bagley
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Fontana
Copyright: 1966
Pages: 254
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 5–8 May, 2009

Wyatt is a me­te­o­rol­o­gist working with the U.S. Navy on the small Caribbean island of San Fernandez. He's convinced that Hurricane Mabel will change course and hit San Fernandez. Trouble is, he can't convince the local dictator, Serrurier, to evacuate the low-lying capital because the rebels have risen.

This is a fine early modern thriller by Bagley. Aside from the im­prob­a­bil­i­ty of an in­sur­rec­tion and a major hurricane happening si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly, it's quite believable. The tension mounts as the weather worsens, people act in character, and no one has improbable talents. Wyatt is naive continue.

Review: Nameless Night

Title: Nameless Night
Author: G.M. Ford
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 340
Keywords: suspense
Reading period: 14 April, 2009

Seven years ago, “Paul Hardy” was found with his head smashed in. He recovered physically, but not mentally. After another accident, his wits come back and a few memories. Googling for the one name he remembers brings the NSA to his door. He goes on the run, causing the un­rav­el­ling of a coverup.

Efficient, well-plotted thriller in the paranoid vein. The plot is as risible as most such books, but no matter. Enjoy it for a few hours.

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